Argentina - The Andes and the Pampas
Travel pictures from Argentina
by Dr. Günther Eichhorn
During my trip to South America in September, 2002, I spent about two weeks in Argentina. In the first week I attended a UN workshop in Villa Carlos Paz, about 30 km (19 miles) north of Córdoba. I then drove west into the Andes to Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Andes with a height of 6,960 meters (22,830 feet). From there I drove east again through the Pampas to Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires I took a trip to Iguazú Falls and a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay. The next step after Buenos Aires was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Villa Carlos Paz is a resort town on a reservoir. There are some interesting sites around that area (for instance the Jesuit Mission in Alta Gracia from the 17th century). The workshop was help at the Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE), a research complex in Falda del Carmen, about 30 km (19 miles) north-west of Córdoba.
On one afternoon I rented a small airplane and flew around the area, including a fly-by with a closeup aerial view of the observatory of the University of Córdoba in the mountains south of Villa Carlos Paz.
The drive from Córdoba into the Andes goes first through the hills around Córdoba, then through the fairly flat Pampas, till you reach the foothills of the Andes. From there it goes high up into the mountains till you reach almost 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) at the highest point of the mountain pass to Chile.
On the way I visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de la Quijadas, a beautiful national park. The pictures of the Culpeo were taken in that park.
In the highest parts of the Andes, the road was still not passable without chains. The scenery in the high Andes valleys is spectacular. From there I drove back down, crossing the high plains and then taking a narrow switch back road down into the Pampas.
I was afraid that crossing the Pampas from the Andes to Buenos Aires would be very boring. I was pleasantly surprised, because the bird life in the Pampas is fascinating. There are huge numbers of birds that you see along the main road. Most of the bird pictures on this page are from that part of my trip.
Buenos Aires is like most large cities. Traffic is pretty bad. One gripe I have is that it is difficult to find places. Signs are not very good. On the way to the airport I got lost because the signs to the airport suddenly stopped, and I ended up in the wrong part of town.
One interesting site in Buenos Aires is the Cemeterio de la Recoleta. This is a cemetery where the elite of Argentina is buried. It is extremely difficult to get a lot there. Another interesting area is San Telmo with lots of antiques stores.
Getting around in Argentina was no problem. The driving is fairly disciplined even with all the traffic, much more so than in some other countries. I was warned that Argentinian drivers would be very undisciplined, but I did not have that impression at all. Everything seemed very disciplined throughout the whole trip. Another example of very disciplined behavior is the fact that people queue up at bus stops, single file. This was certainly not the case in Santiago, Chile for instance. The roads were in pretty good shape in most places. The exception was going up into the Andes. There were several stretches of very bad road conditions.
Finding a hotel is no problem throughout the area where I traveled. Hotels are very inexpensive, and so is everything else. In one case I paid only US$6.00 for an (admittedly simple) hotel room. The recent devaluation of the Argentine Peso has had a dramatic effect on that. The economy there was in pretty bad shape at that time, I hope that they recover soon.
Food, wine and beer is very good. Especially the steaks are very good, though I couldn't get them to cook a steak the way I like it (15 seconds on each side).
One thing that almost caused me a big problem is getting auto fuel. Most everywhere that is no problem, but in one case I was out of luck. I had planned to get fuel in Encón on the road from Quines to San Juan. That town was on roads signs already as far away as 150 km (93 miles). I therefore expected it to be important enough to have a gas station. It did have a gas station, but that station was abandoned, no gasoline to be had. There was an older man working around the gas station, so I asked him where I could get fuel. I don't speak Spanish, and he didn't speak English, but the few words that I know, together with wild gesticulation and pointing was good enough to make clear what problem I had. He told me that the next gas station was about 100 km (60 miles) away. I had fuel for maybe another 30 km (19 miles)! After some more discussions, he indicated to let him in the car, he would bring me to somebody who had gasoline. At least that was how I interpreted him, and fortunately I was right. We got to a house a few blocks away. They told me how much the gas would cost and asked how much I needed. The price was only a little higher than in a gas station, so I got 20 liters (5 gallons) and was on my way again. Like most of the people that I talked to, they were very friendly and helpful.
In Argentina I visited also the Cataratas de Iguazú (Iguazú Falls). The pictures from there are shown on a separate page.
It was an interesting trip through Argentina. I would like to see more of the southern parts, but that would have to be during their summer, it was cold enough where I was. Further south it was way too cold for me.
Birds in Argentina